New Teachers

In the past 6 years of teaching, I have supported teachers in completing their research and theses, mentoring them through their first years of teaching and supporting through practicum classes. I love working with teachers, generally, but there’s something about new teachers that just brings me so much hope and excitement. Along with that, there’s a lot that older teachers can learn from working with new teachers.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned and reflected on in my work with new teachers:

  • Teaching is a truly exciting profession with lots of lightbulb moments and lots of challenges
  • Our students are so amazing if we give them the opportunity to be…and we should give them every opportunity we can
  • Teaching is a lot of work and, until you get the hang of the responsibilities, it is super overwhelming
  • I should probably try to put in more of an effort to look nice for classes (our new teachers come in from studying in London, so clearly they’re more fashionable than the rest of us)
  • There are so many tiny things that go into making a class run smoothly – it’s much easier to break these down when we’re beginner teachers
  • It takes time to figure out our own teacher personalities and it’s important to keep trying to find that, even while we learn and take ideas from other educators
  • There is always something we can learn from every other teacher we come across and our minds and attitudes should always be open to that

Any time you’re feeling iffy about your career choice as an educator, I’d suggest talking to a new teacher about their experiences and their reasons for being where they are. It will open your eyes, teach you something and help you remember why teaching is the best profession there is.

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The Art of Listening

A recent Brainpickings article referenced work by Erich Fromm who wrote about the art of listening and the rules to follow in order to do it unselfishly. Fromm discusses how listening develops a relationship between two people and that relationship is based on love. He also mentions how this love is necessary for unselfish listening to happen. His rules of listening and his thoughts on the listening process made me think about the relationships between colleagues, between teacher and student, between coach and teacher. Take a look at Fromm’s rules below:

  1. The basic rule for practicing this art is the complete concentration of the listener.
  2. Nothing of importance must be on his mind, he must be optimally free from anxiety as well as from greed.
  3. He must possess a freely-working imagination which is sufficiently concrete to be expressed in words.
  4. He must be endowed with a capacity for empathy with another person and strong enough to feel the experience of the other as if it were his own.
  5. The condition for such empathy is a crucial facet of the capacity for love. To understand another means to love him — not in the erotic sense but in the sense of reaching out to him and of overcoming the fear of losing oneself.
  6. Understanding and loving are inseparable. If they are separate, it is a cerebral process and the door to essential understanding remains closed.

-Erich Fromm

Here’s to thinking about listening in a different way.

Joy

Susan Engel, in an article for The Atlantic, said “Human lives are governed by the desire to experience joy. Becoming educated should not require giving up joy but rather lead to finding joy in new kinds of things…” Joy is something I’ve spent a lot of time reflecting on lately, because it’s come up in so many conversations. When our team discusses the progress and growth of our teachers, it’s rare to see joy come into the picture. When we discuss our students’ growth and experience in the classroom, joy is a word we don’t often use to describe it.

The type of joy that Engel describes, the ability to be deeply absorbed by something, seems hard to find as adults. We are so engrossed in work and bills and other responsibilities that taking time out for pure joy and pleasure seems almost impossible at times. Where children have an easy time of finding things to be awed by, we take much of our world for granted.

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Reflections on 2016 (the coaching version)

At the beginning of the summer of 2016, I was questioning my role in my current profession. I was wondering if I was cut out to be a coach and if I even wanted to stay in this context of religious education, which can be difficult in itself. After several tough, yet enlightening conversations, I was able to come to the realization that it wasn’t the job I wanted to leave, it was the lack of trust and genuine relationships at work.

When we discuss the time that children spend on various things in their lives, we often recognize that they spend much of their time at school interacting with teachers, other staff members and peers. Likewise, adults spend a lot of their time at work (oftentimes, even more so than kids do at school). This is an interesting point to note because we don’t often consciously think about this fact and how much it affects who we are as people and the fullness of our lives as individuals.

Continue reading “Reflections on 2016 (the coaching version)”